Athletes may be under a false impression that they do not need to worry about heart disease and diabetes if a recent study is correct. This study, published in the Journal of Athletic Training, found that among college football players, almost one half (1/2) of college defense and offensive lineman had metabolic syndrome, a condition that sets people up for diabetes and heart disease.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of conditions that tend to occur around the same time, which put people at increased risk of diabetes and the complications of diabetes (such as heart disease). Some of the signs of metabolic syndrome include:
- High blood pressure
- Carrying the bulk of excess weight around the abdomen (very common in men)
- Elevated levels triglycerides (fats in the blood)
- Elevated levels of LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Low levels of HDL ( good cholesterol)
- Elevations in C reactive protein (which indicates inflammation and appears to be one of the players that increases our risk of heart disease)
- Elevated levels of other proteins that make the blood more prone to clotting internally (which we don’t want to happen)
- Insulin resistance – in other words the body makes insulin but the cells cant use it or use it as well (i.e., they are resistant to the effects of insulin)
See my post on Is There a Natural Cure for Diabetes to see how to recognize metabolic syndrome by looking at people. There is a visual sign 99% of people never never heard of!
So, even if the students are working out regularly, football players appear to be at increased risk of heart disease. This could be setting them up for major health issues in the future.
In theory, these findings may also hold true for other athletes such as some professional football players, professional wrestlers and Sumo wrestlers where large body mass is required.
Football Coaches and Diabetic Players
College Football coaches (and high school coaches too) should be aware of the possibility that some of their players may be at an increased risk of diabetes.
One easy way to test for metabolic syndrome is to measure the circumference at the waist using a tape measure. Just measure at the widest circumference of the waist. This is usually at the belly button.
If the circumference is 40 inches or more in men (its 35 inches in women), this may be a sign of health problems.
Another way is to measure blood pressure. If resting blood pressure is more than 130/85 this could also be a sign.
Remember, these don’t necessarily mean the person has metabolic syndrome or is at increased risk of heart disease. Rather they are signs that more tests should be performed to better understand what is happening.
Remember, prevention is the best medicine…
Buell JL et al (2008). Presence of Metabolic Syndrome in Football Linemen.
Journal of Athletic Training. Nov–Dec; 43(6): 608–616.